Saturday, March 7, 2009
Benefits of Structure
In my life I have been very suspicious of structure. Admittedly it can be seen as a great homogenizer, and I appreciate individuality. When I was in school I remember thinking that that was what some design schools were doing with their rigorous programs: creating uniformly fastidious cogs. There didn’t seem to be the freedom of artistic expression there. So I went to art school instead, and I was free to create what I wanted with very little interference.
However, it is a benefit for a vine to have something to climb on. With the support of the structure it can stand much higher than it might have without it, and it can even show a beauty it wouldn’t have otherwise. Similarly, people can come together and create structures that help one another out. What we build together affects who we are as individuals. Who we are as individuals affects how we build.
Learning an existing structure forces you to step outside of yourself. This process enables growth. This is like when you go to a yoga class and the teacher teaches a pose you know, but does it differently than you are used to practicing it. You can either try the new way, which can potentially deepen your experience, or you can practice it the same old way. It is a choice.
An important prerequisite to entering a social structure is having a good sense of (and confidence in) your identity. In the past I have not always felt safe in groups, but I think things are different now for me. Over the last few years I have allowed myself to know myself. My old failing was that I was a people-pleaser to the core, and was operating under the principal that if people liked me then I could have what I wanted in life. But really I was selling myself out.
I have also experimented with almost becoming an anti-people-pleaser, doing mostly what I wanted, and living a very unstructured existence. This approach isn’t so good because it provides fertile ground for bad habits to grow. We are social beings, and need to learn to come together in positive ways. And I think we can do better with the support of others as long as we can maintain ourselves in the process.
In the past it didn’t feel safe for me to engage with certain people because I needed them to like me. What a disadvantage this is! There have been plenty of people throughout my life who haven’t liked me (and gratefully, many who have). But, that doesn’t mean that I should have rolled over and died (which I felt like doing)! It’s just the truth: some people didn’t care for me (and some still don’t).
To participate in a social structure a person needs to be able to work with people they like and those they don’t like. When we come together to create something larger than ourselves we need the talents of everyone involved. So it does mean accepting those who like us, and those who don’t.
I have taken the time I needed to honor myself in what was a turbulent sea of self-loathing, and I will try to see through the spiteful eye of another to my own heart-full understanding.